Becca Meyers: Swimmer, Paralympian, Activist and Dreamer

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Photo Courtesy: Frank Genderson

By Jasmine Rose DeLeon, Swimming World Intern.

Becca Meyers woke up early Saturday morning to swim in the 2019 Winter Invitational at Rutgers University. The meet is packed with swimmers up to high-school age, but Meyers is 24—and the most accomplished athlete in the pool this weekend. She is a two-time Paralympian who has won six Paralympic medals in her career as well as the 2017 ESPN ESPY Award for Best Female Athlete With a Disability.

Born and raised in Baltimore, Md., Meyers began swimming when she was six years old after trying every other sport. Born in 1994 with Usher Syndrome, she has impaired vision and is completely deaf except for when she wears her hearing aid.

“When I was trying out soccer, I had a hard time seeing the ball, and hearing referee calls, so I would get hit in the face,” Meyers said. “But when I swim, it’s fun, simple, and easy. I just need to focus on the technique and stay in my lane.”

When she was twelve years old, Meyers told her parents that she would go to the Olympics one day. Years after she started, Meyers stated bluntly, “I used to be a terrible swimmer.” Six years later, through hard work and determination, she competed in the 2012 London Paralympics.

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Photo Courtesy: Frank Genderson

After swimming for her high school, Notre Dame Prep, for four years and her club, Loyola Blakefield Aquatics, for eleven years, she now swims for the NBAC Club under coach Paul Yetter. “The philosophy of the team is that you are expected to go to practice every day and give 150 percent.” Meyers said. “There is also a team environment of positivity and support that encourages everyone to be the best they can be. And our coaches, who expect 150 percent, are there every step of the way.”

What Myers especially loves about her team is that all of them are high school students, who “bring excitement to every practice, do not let any setback phase them, and remind me why I am doing this.”

Upon reflection, Meyers believes that swimming gave her the identity that she has now. “I used to be Becca, who has a disability, and now I am Becca the swimmer.”

When she was in high school, she remembers being judged for her disabilities, so swimming became a type of therapy for her. Meyers feels that whenever she is swimming, she is in a place where she can feel free and forget about her disabilities. “When I swim, I can take off my hearing aid and forget that I have multiple disabilities: I’m in my happy place.”

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Photo Courtesy: Frank Genderson

As a part-time student a Franklin and Marshall College, Meyers majors in Disability Studies in hopes of continuing to be an advocate for others who also have similar conditions. As this is not her first or her last interview, whenever any group or publication takes an interest in her, she welcomes every opportunity to spread the message that “just because you have a disability, it doesn’t you have to hold you back. I have learned that you have to make accommodations; you can get around those things. Just like Michael Phelps says, ‘Anything is possible,’ and I have always believed that.”

Meyers believes that her biggest struggle is coming to able-body meets, like today’s. “I am always at a disadvantage. I’m always behind, and if it’s a new pool, I am behind on the curve of familiarity to be able to perform my best.”

Currently, Meyer is training to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, aiming to beat world records in the 100 and 200 fly. “Some people think ‘you have a gold medal, that’s great.’ No, I know I can do more and I can be better. If I beat a time, I always think ‘I can go faster,’ and I always push myself so that I am working toward something bigger.”